In past decades, some material organizations, particularly those in polymer matrix composites, have waged turf battles for pre-eminence. At times, those showing independence or straying from their niche into another's stronghold have gained industry wisdom at the expense of a flat exhibit or conference.
Today, associations and societies emphasize cooperation, share limited resources and discuss how to complement strengths efficiently. All strive to maintain membership, balance finances and economic viability and, at least three years in advance, plan major meetings that can make or break a fiscal budget.
Tight budgets are a driver. Companies face difficult decisions on where to rent exhibit booths and which technical conferences to attend. Too few dollars exist to blanket the shows, and companies like the idea of contacting multiple groups at a single event.
With that in mind, several groups are considering linking up:
The Composites Institute and Composites Fabricators Association are discussing whether to hold a joint conference and trade show in 1999 or 2000. The activity would supplant CI and CFA meetings for a year.
CFA and the Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering will hold a four-day gathering in Orlando, Fla., beginning Oct. 29, 1997.
Senior managers from several trade and professional groups will discuss programs and brainstorm at a forum during the Suppliers of Advanced Composite Materials Association's conference Oct. 22-24 in San Diego.
SACMA and the Composites Institute, a unit of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., are seeking ways to reach civil engineers, possibly through an engineering conference.
In February, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulator accepted the voluntary plan of a four industry groups to limit workplace exposure to styrene by July 1997 without requiring companies to go through expensive rulemaking.
``The trend is toward commonality in government affairs, environmental issues and customer relations,'' said Patrick Money, president of both CFA and fabricator Compositives Inc. in Garrett, Ind. ``Groups share a common interest in how to best get technology and goods into the marketplace'' in North America and elsewhere.
McLean, Va.-based CFA has 700 member companies. Most fabricate products of fiber-reinforced plastics.
CFA and SAMPE will hook up in late 1997, but each will hold its own meeting this fall, with CFA's Composites '96 set for Oct. 2-5 in Dallas, and SAMPE's technical meeting Nov. 4-7 in Seattle.
SAMPE, which has a history of working with other groups, will continue its international spring symposium and exhibition in Anaheim, Calif.
SAMPE teamed up with the Society of Manufacturing Engineers for a meeting in 1994; ASM International, the Metal Powder Industrial Federation and the Materials Research Society in 1995; and the Industrial Fabrics Association International in 1996.
``Pooling resources supports the advancement of technology,'' said Ronald Keyson of Big Bear Lake, Calif., president of Covina, Calif.-based SAMPE and a retired Hughes Aircraft Co. project engineering manager.
``Proper use of composites in the 21st century will overshadow anything we have seen in plastics,'' Keyson said.
Many of SAMPE's 5,000 individual members have high-technology experience in military and commercial aerospace disciplines.
Groups have a role in emerging markets.
``Long run, we want this carbon-fiber industry to be 10 times bigger than what it is today,'' said D.J. DeLong, chairman of Arlington, Va.-based SACMA.
``On that subject, I am on same wave length as the fellow at Zoltek,'' he said, referring to com-petitor Zsolt Rumy, chairman and chief executive officer of Zoltek Cos. Inc. in St. Louis.
SACMA mem- bership includes 12 materials suppliers, six user companies and six affiliates.
DeLong suggests that material suppliers must ``use the profitability from the aerospace business today to create the cash flow to reinvest in nonaerospace capacity for the future.'' Meanwhile, fiber suppliers incur the costs of three-year cycles to develop products for infrastructure and other uses and struggle to broaden their markets beyond aerospace and sporting goods.
``How do we educate the industrial designers of the world how to design with composites?'' DeLong asked.
He is business manager of carbon fibers for Amoco Corp.'s polymers business group in Alpharetta, Ga.
Already, leaders are discussing the possibility of holding a tutorial on advanced composites at a major trade gathering such as the Design Engineering Show in Chicago. Most of 34,000 attendees at the 1996 show were oriented toward mechanical or industrial engineering. The 1997 show will be held March 10-13.
``A unified industry has a powerful voice,'' said Kevin Sullivan, chairman of the New York-based Composites Institute, which has 400 corporate members. Sullivan also is general manager of fiberglass reinforcements for PPG Industries Inc. in Pittsburgh.